A new IMF reforms program for Jordan could provide a "safety net" for Jordan and help reschedule its foreign debt, a senior International Monetary Fund official said in an interview published Wednesday, November 21.
IMF Deputy Director for the Middle East David Burton was speaking to the Jordan Times at the end of a round of talks with Jordanian officials ahead of the expiry in April 2002 of a three-year IMF-designed reforms plan for Jordan.
"I will not say that it strongly needs a successor program but it might be desirable for Jordan to have a (new) program," Burton told the newspaper. "I would not say that it desperately needs a new one ... but it will provide a safety net and a framework for Jordan," he said, adding that talks with Jordanian officials indicate they want "probably" want a new plan.
IMF officials have said Jordan has met most of the criteria outlined by the three-year reforms program, including the launch of a major privatization drive, the introduction of a value-added tax and amendment of tax laws. But the kingdom still faces a crippling $7.19-billion foreign debt and slow economic growth which stands currently at four percent.
Burton said a successor program if adopted by Jordan should focus on "strengthening the macro-economic stability" that has been achieved over the past few years as well as sustain higher economic growth to ease poverty. The Jordanian authorities hope growth will rise to 4.5 percent over the next year while the IMF is aiming for a five to six percent growth in the medium term.
Burton also praised the government's plan to launch in 2002 a comprehensive social and economic reforms program expected to be financed by privatization proceeds and foreign grants.
Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb unveiled the 300-million-dinar ($422 million) plan on November 15 and said its overall aim was to curb unemployment and poverty and raise the standard of living in the kingdom.
Unemployment in Jordan stands at 12 to 13 percent, according to official estimates, and as high as 25 percent according to unofficial figures. One in three Jordanians out of a five-million-strong population lives under the poverty line. Burton said a new round of IMF talks is set for February. — (AFP, Amman)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )